Saturday, August 1, 2015

McCalls 6956,

Hey ya'll, I find myself once again begging your forgiveness for being over ambitious and not following through on my plan. Early in June I laid out some major plans for summer sewing and then a few things happened that waylaid me. The first was the sewing I've been doing for the community match portion of the Super Online Sewing Match II, the second was the end of our theatre's summer season being way busier than the first half, and the third was getting some bad news about a family member's health. I want to say that on the last not they are in good spirits and fighting hard and we have reason to be hopeful. All of my excuses were a long drawn out way of saying sorry.

I have learned that I am not making plans anymore. Well it's not that I'm not making them but I am not going to share them in the same way. Over planning my sewing has lead me to lose ambition for projects I was formerly excited for. No one needs that, least of all me. That said I did finish a few of the projects I set out to accomplish and I am blogging about them now.

The first is McCall's 6956. This dress is great! As soon as I saw it I was in love with view B. The way they used the stripes was awesome and I had a beautiful mint green seersucker that was just calling out to become this dress. 

The construction of this dress is pretty straight forward and I found the directions and markings really clear and well done. One adjustment that I decided to make was to add a shaped bra panel out of felt to the cups of the dress. This is one of the easiest hacks/alts to make. and I found that it really paid off it the fit and structure of the dress.

All you need to do is trace the bra cup pieces onto the felt. Then take a ruler and mark 5/8" in from the outermost marking. This will be your cut line. Transfer the notches to this new line. What you're doing is removing the seam allowance. The reason you would do this is because you are not really going to seam these together in the same way you will the exterior and lining pieces.

You're going to use a zigzag stitch to put these together. What you'll do is sort of line up the pieces and the notches, butting the two pieces up next to each other. You can see this really well in the picture below because I marked the notch with a sharpie.

Next all you do is to zigzag stitch along the point where you've butted the seams up to one another. Make sure you backstitch at the beginning and the end. As you continue down the length of the seam you just want to continue to move the two pieces together so that they are caught up and stitched so that they snuggle right up to one another.

Then when they come out of the machine they create a sweet little shaped cup to line the top of your dress without creating super bulky seams. I only did the front bra pieces then I flatlined the shaped cups to the lining for the top of the dress.

I had intended on making my version strapless, however being a well endowed woman I quickly realized when I put it on that the dress needed straps. However because I added the shaping to the cups I did find that I did not really need to wear a bra with it. Score! No peeking bra or bra straps creeping out. Now since I did not add the straps before I finished the dress I had to add them on after. 

This afforded me the opportunity that I don't think I would've taken to set the straps really close to the center back of the dress. I am really glad that I did. I wore this dress to an opening night party, I felt secure the whole night, and my straps never slipped once.

This dress is a new and absolute favorite. Once again my dress form is now larger than I am so the back doesn't close, but look at her, she's a beaut!

I am going to try to be better with my blog but I'm not making promises anymore. Life got in my way the last few weeks and there's not much I could do about it. My sewn items are awesome and I am super happy with the work that I have been doing. I look forward to sharing more of them with you all!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Super Online Sewing Match: Community Match Marianne Dress

I'm back at it and sewing for round two of the Super Online Sewing Match Community Match. The pattern that they chose for round two is the Marianne dress from Christine Haynes. Much like the Sutton Blouse from round one, the Marianne is not a pattern I would naturally gravitate towards. Part of what I love though about strictly following along with the SOSM contest patterns is altering the chosen pattern to be something that will get some play in my wardrobe.

I had a hard time figuring out how I was going to tailor this project to my personal taste. What I decided was that I would use the two-tone look of look B, but sleeveless like look A. I found my base fabric in my stash, it's an Art Gallery Knit called Stamped Grove Daylight. I got it the last time I was in Boston and went to Grey's Fabric. I was hoping to find a lightweight semi-sheer fabric for the top and then I wanted to continue part of the pattern of the dress into the yoke with some hand embroidery. I found the contrast fabric at JoAnn's, it's a light ivory sweater knit.

First step was to cut my pattern out. Once I marked the pattern, cut it, and I could move on to my hand embroidery. It makes it easier to do the hand embroidery before you put the pattern together. With the sweater knit being slightly sheer I could lay it over the pattern fabric and mark the pattern on the front of the front yoke pattern piece. 

One of the important things that I've found with hand embroidery, especially with sheer fabric, is to keep the traveling stitches on the back neat. I don't want to put all this hard work in on the front only to have a thread explosion on the back.

The pattern calls for the use of clear elastic on the shoulder seams and I haven't used that before. I didn't have any and I briefly entertained just rolling forward without it, but instead I popped out to JoAnn's and bought myself some clear elastic. Let me say that I am so glad that I did. The stability it provided to the shoulder of the dress was amazing. This sweater knit is stretchier than the jersey I'm using on the bottom and I was worried about the shoulders stretching out. With the clear elastic in there I need not worried anymore!

One problem that I ran into with this pattern was the neck banding. The sweater knit stretches a little different than a jersey knit, when I stretched it the banding became too thin and hard to put through the serger. What I did was to recut the neck banding 2.5" longer. That little bit of extra fabric made all the difference. It went around the neck edge beautifully.

I attached the fronts and backs of the bottom of the dress to the yoke and I was excited to see how well the pattern matched up to embroidery that I did. It's all coming together!

Once the bottoms were on there were only side seams and hems left. I put the side seams together and then I popped it on. It was a little too shapeless for me so I nipped it in at the waist and bust. I don't know that I would've made a different size all over but I could've definitely used a smaller size through the bust and waist even though I like the flow over the hip. I made a size 6 but I probably could have made a size 2 at the waist a size 4 at the bust and kept the size 6 at the hip. The size at the hip could've gone smaller if I wanted it more fitted but I like the flow of the skirt.

I used my regular machine to do the hems on the sleeves and the skirts. I do have a coverstitch machine and I entertained using it but honestly I didn't want to set it up. I was also worried about using it on the light weight sweater knit. I know that is lazy but the zig zag looks great! I will say that the pattern was pretty short. I am 5'2" and know that if I were much taller this would be a tunic top rather than a dress. To my tall sewcialists out there, be advised, you may want to lengthen it a touch.

I set up my camera and did a little mini photo shoot in the studio. It's a cute dress! It went together SO fast, with the exception of the time for the hand embroidery, I think this dress could've gone together in an hour. I also think that this would make a great top shortened. I'm glad I embraced this pattern. It was really fun!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Super Online Sewing Match: Community Match Sutton Blouse

As many of you will know, Sew Mama Sew recently started up it's Super Online Sewing Match II. They had done the first SOSM two years ago and I missed the audition deadline. As a result I participated in the community match portion of the contest and I had a great time.

When I discovered that they were doing this contest again I immediately auditioned. Sadly I was not chosen as a contestant, however that does not mean that I will not be participating. Much like last time I look forward to joining the community match and participating along with the contestants as they start this journey.

The first project for the contestants is the Sutton Blouse from True Bias. Most amazing thing about this blouse? The designer is the previous winner of the SOSM! How awesome is that?

Now I have to be honest and admit that the Sutton is not my typical make. I tend to like my garments incredibly fitted, with more of a vintage feel. But I wanted to take a page out of Kelli from True Bias's book and look at this as an opportunity to make the pattern my own. One of the most consistent comments on her work in the first SOSM was that she took the challenge, embraced it, and then flipped it. Challenge accepted.

I started, as one must with a PDF pattern, I printed it and taped it together. I cut out the size 10 which was actually smaller than recommended based on my measurements, but in hindsight I think that I would probably make an 8 when I make this top again.

I used a solid cream colored crepe which measured 60" wide and allowed me to use a little over a yard of fabric. Cutting is where I made my first alteration. This blouse has a pair of side slits and the back hangs a little lower than in the front. I really wanted a my version to just be a straight across hem with no side slit, so I measured the side seams and subtracted the difference from the bottom of the back piece. Boom! Even hem.

Once I marked my pattern I then carefully pinned my fabric together before cutting. I don't usually do this but to use a highly technical term, my fabric as super "woodgey" and I wanted to make sure that the pieces didn't get distorted when I cut them out.

The first thing I did with this blouse was to stay stitch the neck edge. This is super important. By stay stitching the neck edge you help to make sure that it doesn't stretch when you sew and handle it. The neck edge is finished with bias, so that is not really going to help with the structure. That is another reason that stay stitching is so important.

After the stay stitching I applied the bias to the neck edge, under stitched it and the top stitched it down. Once that was accomplished it was time to french seam. 

Here is what I would like to say about french seams.
  1. They are not as hard as you think. I know I hear "french" and I think, ooh fancy. While they are fancy (you will feel fancy wearing them) they are not super difficult as long as you follow the steps. (Kelli details the process very well in her pattern if you are new to them.)
  2. TRIM. YOUR. SEAM ALLOWANCE! I know all caps is harsh but when she says to trim your first seam allowance down from 1/4" to 1/8", she is not joking. By trimming it and then sewing you reduce the likelihood that little strings from the fraying edge of your fabric will not try to escape the front of your seam.
  3. Press the living daylights out of the thing. Really pressing it helps so much. you will be glad that you did. 

 Trimming my first seam from 1/4" to 1/8"

Pressed my seam post trimming.

When you are working with "woodgey" or shifty fabric like I was sometimes you need to pin for your life, because no matter how much you press, it can jack your junk up once it goes through that machine.

Pinning for the stars.

Now, my biggest alteration. Knowing that I like a good fitted blouse, I decided to add five rows of shirring to the back of the garment. You may be asking yourself, "but Caroline how did you know where to put the shirring?". Well dear readers I will tell you. In looking at the pattern I noticed that the Lengthen/Shorten line sat just about on the natural waist. So only on the back pattern piece, I marked that line and with elastic thread hand wound in my bobbin and my stitch length set at 4 I stitched along that marked line while holding the tails of the thread. ***It is important with shirring to leave long tails and then thoroughly stitch them down so that they don't pull out.*** 

After the first row I just lined up my presser foot with that row and stitched straight across four more times. It gave me these neat rows of shirring at a back waist detail and some beautiful fullness. You will need to stretch the previous rows so you make sure the row you're working on goes in straight and smooth, only cinching and gathering when you release it.

Once the shirring was done it was easy breazy. Doing away with the slits and making the hem even the whole way around I was able to do french seams on the side seams and then I just top stitched my hem in and I had a blouse!

However in looking at it I realized that I wanted the gathered effect of the shirring to be mimicked somewhere else in the blouse. So I decided to do an elasticated pickup at the sleeve of the blouse. I put the blouse on and marked where I wanted the gethering to stop and start. I took the blouse off and marked that line. I then cut a piece of 1/4" elastic half the total distance I was spanning. I pinned the elastic at the starting and stopping points and then I used a narrow zigzag stitch to sew it in. Then my blouse was done and looking great!

Here is what it looks like inside out with all of the beautiful french seaming.

Last but not least, here is the lady in action. This is the second time I've worn her since I finished her up last Friday. She's a beauty and went together in about 4 hours once I cut it out. I like it, I love it, and I'm gonna need some more of it.

In the end I am happy with the alterations I made and I think that with the shirring the blouse has the vintage feel that I needed. I will certainly make another.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

2015 Outfit A Long

I saw a post on Lladybird a little over a month ago. It was the the first time I had ever heard of an outfit a long before. It meant sewing a dress and knitting a sweater in two months time. I was immediately intrigued and excited about the idea of it. There was only one thing that was troubling about the idea, I have never finished a sweater completely. I have started them and even come to the point of just needing to block them and then not gone through the final step. I knew that if were going to do this I had to really commit.

The dress pattern was McCall's 6887 and the sweater pattern was Vianne, Vianne is the newest pattern from Knitting designer Andi Satterlund. I've seen some of Andi's patterns before and I've loved them but the Vianne is far and away my favorite. Once I saw the sweater option I was done, I knew I needed to make this dress and sweater. I began with the sweater first because I knew it would take the most time.

The yarn I chose was Madelinetosh Sport in a color called Plunge which is not on her website. I found it at my local knittery The Knitters Edge in Bethlehem, PA. (One of the most amazing yarn stores, with the most amazing and helpful staff). I bought my pattern, bought my yarn, and set up my knit picks interchangeable needles and got started.

I'm not going to lie to you I knit parts of this thing and took it apart many times. The back was especially difficult, I kept thinking that I was on the right track and I'd be suddenly off a stitch and it would be all jacked up. I took it apart many many times until finally, I stopped messing up and did it right. I had a similar experience with one of the sleeves and took it out once and started over. It came out well but it was a little ill fitting, stretched out a little through the bust and a little tight through the waist.

I was amazed when I finally finished it. However once I'd finished it I had to do something I'd never done before. I had to block a sweater. Ahhhhhh! I will tell you true I did it once and it did not go at all well. I just kind of pinned it how I thought it should look and not by measure.

It was less than successful. It became stretched out and weirdly shaped. I was panicked that I had just ruined all my hard work and that beautiful yarn.

I cooled my nerves for a minute and took a breath. Put the sweater back in the warm water and took another crack at it. This time I pinned it out based on the finished measurements in the pattern. Even in the picture of it repinned it looks 100% better. I will tell you that it was 100% better.

While my sweater was letting itself dry into proper shape I moved on to the matching dress. The pattern was right up my alley. Vintage silhouette with a modern twist. It went together really quickly, though I did make a few tweaks. The major alteration that I made was adding an extra button to the center back and rather than machine buttonholes I did bound buttonholes. Now the reason for this was two fold. 1) I think they look wonderful. 2) My machine which does machine buttonholes was broken. So it was for both necessity and beauty.

I interfaced the back edge as prescribed for the machine buttonholes. I marked the rectangles for the buttonholes on the interfacing.

I then pinned the squares of fabric that I cut to be the welts of the buttonholes, right sides together, and then sewed them from the interfaced side where I'd marked them.

I turned the squares to the inside and began to folded them towards the center of the rectangles to create the flaps of the buttonholes. Then I stitched them down at the edges.

They turned nicely and stitched down well.

I'm pleased with how they turned out.

I worked the pattern pretty much as prescribed from this point forward. It was too difficult to fit the bodice before it was attached to the skirt and parts of the bodice were too difficult to fit after. There are some changes I will make when I make this again. For my shortness I definitely need to raise the straps, but that was not the biggest problem.

The main issue I ran into was the princess seaming on front bust. I know I have an ample bust and based on my measurements I needed to make the D cup version of the bodice. I did and I think it was the right choice, but I found that the seam created a very pointed bust. I mean I almost need a torpedo bra straight out of the 1950's to fill out the curve of the seaming properly. In the future I will gentle that curve so that it hugs my bustline a little better.

You can see it on the form that there is some excess fullness in the bust and underbust.

One of the last things I needed to do was to stitch the lining up to enclose the seams  of the skirt. I found it easier to put the dress on my form and to pin the lining closed. I found that this helped me to ensure that I didn't pull the lining closed too tight or too loose.

Another addition I made was to add these bra loops on the back of the band in the back. I thought they'd be great but my bra pulls it funny. I think that the next time I make this I will lower the band by at least an inch to give better coverage for my bra. I hate when it pokes out.

I love this outfit, I'm particularly proud of the sweater. I didn't honestly know I had it in me. I had taken better finished shots of me in my outfit but I accidently broke my SD card before I could load them up. Boo.... But I did take some iPhone selfies and a few pictures of my beauty on my dress form.

And finally the finished product on the lady herself.

Puppy Photobomb.

The two things that I love most about this dress is that you can see my tattoos in the back and the swish and sway of the skirt. It really has a marvelous kick to it and the shorter version is utter perfection. I will absolutely be making both of these items again!